MOSCOW (AP) — The United States is disputing that it has agreed with Russia on the need for a United Nations investigation into a chemical weapons attack in Syria.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the two countries had agreed to work together on an international investigation into the attack that prompted retaliatory American missile strikes.
But Tillerson spokesman R.C. Hammond says “no agreement was reached.”
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Still, the U.S. isn’t standing in the way of an investigation. The U.S. says the U.N. doesn’t need action from the U.S. to investigate because there are already mechanisms in place to investigate chemical weapons use in Syria.
Russia maintains Syrian President Bashar Assad’s opposition is responsible for the chemical weapons. But the U.S. says Tillerson believes all evidence points to Assad as the culprit.
Additionally, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s removal would profit the Islamic State group.
Lavrov criticized the Western focus on ousting Assad, saying that it would derail international efforts to combat the Islamic State group and other extremists in Syria.
He issued the warning after talks with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday,
Lavrov insisted that confronting the Islamic State group should take priority over removing Assad from power.
He said: “It’s in our interests not to allow the Islamic State and (the al-Qaida branch in Syria) to hold court in Damascus.”
Lavrov also is warning the U.S. and its allies against blaming Assad’s government for a deadly chemical attack last week until the U.N. has investigated the attack.
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